In the area near the county line between Pulaski and her slightly-to-the-north sister Lincoln, there are few names as instantly recognizable as this one: Ruckel.
And while for the people of Embank and Waynesburg, the name has been a staple of their community for generations, Ruckel's Restaurant draws its share of faithful customers from out of town, too. From places like London, McCreary County … and Nicholasville.
Nicholasville? A town on the doorstep of Lexington, with the host of culinary options offered there, and people still make the hour-long trek from there to Eubank just to eat?
"We've got a couple of groups that drive in from Nicholasville. They come for our slaw," said Darlene Ruckel Litteral, proprietor of Ruckel's Restaurant. "They've got family in Somerset they visit, and on their way back, they have to stop and get a gallon of cole slaw."
It's academic for Litteral: Good food equals good business. A simple equation to figure out for the former local gifted and talented educator who made the transition into the restaurant game by following the surest route to success: family.
Ruckel's opened in 2003, started by Litteral's parents, Lloyd and Donna Ruckel. The two were farmers and had owned their own farm supply store in Waynesburg, but wanted to try their hand at something different.
However, "they had to make a lot of adjustments," said Litteral, adding with a laugh, "It's a lot different feeding people than feeding cows."
Ltteral retired from education and came on board to help her folks, along with her daughter, Andrea Roberts, who came back to assist after getting a college degree. That made Ruckel's truly a family affair -- and that's how Litteral wants to run the restaurant.
"We treat this business like a family, because it is family-owned and everybody here is family," she said. "In that respect, it is a double-edged sword. We don't run it like a business. If I say something (critical) to you today, I'm gonna love you tomorrow. It doesn't matter."
The down-home family feel of Ruckel's is evident in the layout of the building itself, located on Ky. 70, right off of U.S. 27 -- visible from the highway. With a long porch and a cozy feel as you step inside, the atmosphere is more like that of a home than of a busy eatery.
"That was the intent," said Litteral, "to be like family. Everybody calls my mom 'Granny.' The customers call her 'Granny,' the employees call her 'Granny.' If you know her as Granny, then you've been here before."
The cole slaw is the big draw for the restaurant, what they're best known for -- Litteral noted that the recently-opened Get UR Smoke On BBQ restaurant in Somerset serves the Ruckel's slaw -- but the country cooking on the menu is vast and varied. Come different days for different offerings -- Friday night is a big night for fish, and the Sunday after-church crowd experiences a different menu each week. Saturdays and Sundays also feature a breakfast bar ("Everything from chocolate gravy to fried bologna," said Litteral), while Mondays are for "cook's choice," Tuesday has the soup bean buffet, and Wednesday all-you-can-eat fried chicken.
Ruckel's also does catering, and has one other unique feature -- the adjacent pay lake, which during summer months is filled with fish from Lake Cumberland and Herrington Lake. From April to November, "you can now catch prize fish in there."
Being not just a business but a part of the northern Pulaski community is important to Ruckel's -- they even stayed open on Thanksgiving so that people who didn't have a place to go could come and eat with the Ruckel's kin. Indeed, for Litteral, it's the people who make the job worth it.
"Once you come in the door, you'll be considered family," she said. "(The customers) are family. You know when they're not here, you know when they're sick, you know when something is going on. My girls can get their drinks before they sit down at the table; they already know what they want."